We are building an archive of biographies and stories from our Western Chemistry Alumni. We welcome submissions from all alumni, whether BSc, MSc, PhD or Postdoc (send your ideas or contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org).
When I started my graduate school at Western in 2005, it was the first time I stepped out of my home country, China, which means a lot in the entire life of an international student. The experience at Western not only provided me with scientific knowledge and skills, but more importantly, it was a priceless and unique period that enables me to overcome unexpected difficulties.
There is a Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. My supervisor, Dr. Brian L. Pagenkopf, was the guide who taught me methods in chemistry research and “fed me for a lifetime”. I enjoyed the research in the Pagenkopf group and graduated with a sense of accomplishment. During my two years at Western, our research generated several publications, some are nice collaborative works with Dr. Zhifeng Ding and Dr. Oleg Semenikhin’s groups. Dr. Yining Huang also gave me much encouragement during that time. The experiences at Western have been beneficial to my career development.
After completing M.Sc. at Western, I joined Gilead Sciences Inc. as a research chemist, mainly for the optimization of synthetic process of commercialized anti-virus APIs. Then, I moved back to Beijing, became the Senior Director of a national-level pharmaceutical association (NGO), supervising the international cooperation of this think-tank for the Chinese central government. I recently finished a Ph.D. at Peking University in Healthcare Policy, and I am now working as the Vice President of Asymchem Laboratories Inc., a world-leading pharmaceutical CDMO with more than 3000 employees and market capital above 20 billion RMB.
Canada is a beautiful country, London is a nice place, and Western is a great University. I love the people and the life there.
Xin (Kevin) Wang
Western M.Sc., Chemistry 2007
Creation date: June 22, 2018
When I began my degree at Western, I was enrolled in the Physics and Astronomy program, planning on specializing in astrophysics. However, I found the environment in the first-year chemistry course so warm and welcoming. The professors made time for me, the TA’s were always helpful, and I felt a massive amount of support from my fellow peers. The following year, I enrolled in the Chemistry program and never looked back!
The people I had the pleasure to meet in a new city were like a family to me. Everyone was willing to go the extra mile to help someone study for a midterm, understand a concept, or get each other snacks when the pressure of exams was honing in. Not only did this program increase my ability to problem solve, apply concepts to real world issues, and improve my research skills, it also taught me how to persevere through stressful times, how to communicate effectively and how to be successful in the professional world. The fourth-year undergraduate research project I completed with Dr. David Shoesmith and Dr. James Noël taught me about different avenues of research, how to network in science and how to work effectively both independently and as a team.
I am currently employed as a Research Chemist specializing in Microscopy at Imperial Oil in Sarnia. I am part of the Lubricant Technical Support Division for ExxonMobil, where we work with engineers and companies experiencing issues with finished product to determine root causes of problems being experienced in the field and determine how the issue can be resolved. Without the experience I obtained in the fourth-year thesis I would have never been granted the opportunity to work for such a world-renowned company. Western Chemistry helped me develop the skills and provided the guidance necessary to succeed in an industrial setting, and I will always be grateful for everything it gave to me!
Western B.Sc., Chemistry 2017
Creation date: May 23, 2018
When I started university I initially enrolled in biology with the plan of entering the medical sciences program to prepare myself for medical school. However, I found both the class sizes and content did not match my learning style or interest. I continued into second year, hoping as subjects became more specialized and classes decreased from 1000 to 400 students I would find it a better and more motivating learning experience. I will be forever grateful that I registered for second year inorganic chemistry, one of the core courses for chemistry majors. In this inorganic course I was in a smaller classroom setting, interacting with peers and professors much in the way I had imagined before attending university.
I enthusiastically switched majors and career plans. Undergraduate chemistry was a great program to develop my research, cognitive, professional and communication skills. My enjoyment in chemistry motivated me towards pursuing a career in academic chemistry. The fourth year research experience appeared far stronger than what was undertaken by my colleagues in biology or medical sciences. During my fourth year project with Dr. Paul Ragogna I received the support I needed to have a successful and productive learning experience while developing an understanding of academic research. I then started graduate school with Dr. Len Luyt, who continued to foster my academic and professional development. His laboratory at the London Regional Cancer Centre collaborates with many interdisciplinary scientists and physicians, and during this time I returned to my original passion to work with patients as a physician. Dr. Luyt continued to strongly support my career ambitions, even when I moved away from my plan to pursue a PhD.
My methods of understanding a mechanism/pathway or solving a problem has been developed differently than many of my peers, who have taken a more traditional approach to a career in medicine, and this has been a tremendous advantage. The chemistry program was comprised of students with diverse career ambitions (academia, industry, business, medicine, other professional programs, etc.) making it an ideal place to grow towards my goals. The collegiality within the department and the mentorship available to students are two strong features which are not always mentioned along with the great research and education produced by faculty.
Western Chemistry provided me with the mentorship and foundation for a strong career in academic medicine as a medical oncologist.
Western B.Sc., Chemistry 2006
Western M.Sc,. Chemistry 2008
Schulich School of Medicine MD 2014 (Internal medicine, Medical Oncology)
Creation date: Jan 27, 2018
The eight years that I spent at Western were both personally and professionally rewarding. After graduating from Western’s Biochemistry and Chemistry undergraduate program, I decided to pursue graduate studies in Chemistry at Western under the supervision of Prof. John Corrigan. I found the Chemistry program at Western provided an excellent combination of academic and hands-on learning opportunities, fostered by energetic and interactive faculty members. During my Ph.D. studies, I was encouraged to define the direction of my graduate research projects, challenge conventional perceptions, and strive for true innovation versus incremental improvement. In addition to a very strong foundation in chemical sciences, I appreciate the emphasis on creative and critical thinking that has enabled me to work across broad technology areas in my professional career.
My experience at Western has led to exciting career opportunities ranging from fundamental chemistry to product development and scale up. Following my Ph.D. studies, I completed a postdoctoral tenure at University of California-Berkeley in the area of molecular magnets, as a Fellow of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. I joined The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) in 2006 as a member of Dow’s Chemical Sciences group where I developed new catalysis systems for producing polymers and glycol ethers. In 2008, I joined Dow’s Solar Solutions business, where I worked in multiple technical areas including moisture barrier films, solar cell interconnection and new solar materials, leading to the successful launch of Dow’s POWERHOUSE™ solar shingle.
I am currently R&D Director for Dow CMP Technologies business, leading a multi-functional organization focused on the design and development of new products to meet the demands of chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) process technologies at the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers. I joined this business unit in 2011, serving roles of Product Development Leader and also a stint as the Asia Technology Director at our Taiwan R&D Center. Innovations have included the successful launch of Dow’s IKONIC™ pad platform designed for advanced node CMP applications.
My career in chemistry, which began with studies at Western, continues to take me on an incredible journey!
Marty W. DeGroot
The Dow Chemical Company
Western B.Sc., Biochemistry and Chemistry, 2000
Western Ph.D., Chemistry, 2004
Creation date: October, 2015
I had initially entered the University of Western Ontario with the hopes of one day becoming a medical doctor. However, I began to find that I was enjoying my chemistry courses more than any of my other classes. Toward the end of my second year, I became convinced that chemistry was the field I wanted to be in and I decided to pursue it as my major. This decision was influenced in large part by the department of chemistry itself. I was very impressed by the faculty’s ability to offer both an excellent education in the classroom and a high-quality research experience in the laboratory.
During my undergrad, my background in chemistry allowed me to secure a summer job as a laboratory technician at a Praxair distribution facility in Paris, Ontario. My job at Praxair involved running various analytical tests on specialty packaged gases to ensure they met the required specifications. This entailed the use of analytical techniques such as gas chromatography, infrared spectroscopy, and flame ionization detection. It was a very rewarding experience to be able to apply my knowledge of instruments I had learned about in the classroom to a workplace environment. The common lab practices that had been taught to me in undergraduate labs translated well into an industrial setting and I felt that I had been well prepared for the job.
In my third year, I became enthralled with organic chemistry. This led to me volunteering in the laboratory of Professor Michael Kerr, where I was able to gain research experience working under the guidance of a PhD student in the lab. I continued my studies in the Kerr lab as a fourth year thesis student. This experience was easily one of the greatest parts of my undergraduate career and inspired me to take on graduate studies in chemistry.
I decided to go to the United States to pursue a PhD after a recruitment seminar that took place at Western given by Professor Corey Stephenson from the University of Michigan. A PhD in the US seemed like the perfect opportunity to have an adventure while at the same time continuing my education. After doing a little research (and seeing a few pictures of the beach), I was sold on the idea of going to California.
I am currently a PhD student in chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating, I hope to continue performing research in the field of organic synthetic chemistry, whether that be in industry or academia. To this day I remain grateful to the department of chemistry at Western for an incredible undergraduate experience and for inspiring me to continue my studies in chemistry.
Graduate Student, University of California, Santa Barbara
Western B.Sc., Chemistry, 2015
Winner of the 2015 Andrew E. Scott Medal and Prize
Creation date: February, 2016
When I initially entered Western in my first year, I was enrolled in the Medical Sciences program. My goal right from entering university had been to become a physician and the Medical Sciences degree path seemed to align well. Over the course of my first year, however, I found that my favourite course was Chemistry. To my family and friends surprise in my second year, I enrolled in the Honors Specialization in Chemistry program. It was throughout this process that I began to consider becoming a Chemist instead of a physician.
Over the next three years at Western, I can firmly say that I did not once ever regret making the decision to switch into Chemistry. The professors were all amazing, the courses were diverse, relevant and rigorous; I also thoroughly enjoyed the lab aspect of the program, as it allowed me to fulfil my tactile learning side. The fourth year of the Honors Specialization program also deserves extra attention as the department did a fantastic job in preparing students for future employment opportunities within the field with a host of workshops on CV writing and interviewing skills. During these three years I still had the intention of becoming a physician, however as the years progressed, the alternative path of becoming a chemist became much more plausible. This was only made possible because of the fantastic experience I had in the Department of Chemistry and the strong community I formed there.
Currently, I am attending medical school at the University of Toronto. When I introduce myself to people in my program, many are surprised that I come from a physical science background instead of the usual biological one. The one question many of my peers ask me is if my undergraduate degree in Chemistry has helped me in the program so far. My time in Chemistry at Western was an invaluable experience and has provided me with a diverse and unique perspective that not many medical students have. For example, when we learn about drugs and their effect on the body, I look at the molecule and structure, and see how the charges or the polarity would affect the drug’s interaction with its receptor, which I believe will make me a more perceptive clinician and researcher.
Overall, my time in Chemistry was an amazing experience and I am evermore grateful for it!
Medical Student, Univeristy of Toronto
Western B.Sc., Chemistry, 2015
2015 Gold Medalist in Chemistry
Creation date: February, 2016
I chose to study chemistry at Western because I loved lab work in high school and I knew Western would provide the ultimate balance of a great education and an incredible experience. After first year I found that I preferred analytical chemistry over other chemistry disciplines and the number of courses available allowed me to gear my choices towards what I wanted to learn.
After graduation I started working as a Chemical Regulatory Consultant. In this position I wrote MSDSs and warning labels for chemical products. The knowledge that I gained during my time at Western proved invaluable when assessing my clients’ products for potential hazards.
After a year of regulatory work, I decided to take my education a step further and pursue a Masters of Engineering at Western. My chemistry knowledge from my Bachelors degree gave me a different perspective on engineering than those who came from other educational backgrounds. Through my Masters degree I gained a broader knowledge of chemical processes and the chemical industry outside of Western.
I am now employed as a Lab Analyst at Accucaps Industries in Strathroy, Ontario. I work in the quality control lab where we test pharmaceutical products and raw materials to ensure the quality of our finished products. I find that I use my knowledge and skills that I acquired at Western on a daily basis.
Western B.Sc., Chemistry, 2013
Western M.Eng., Chemical Engineering, 2015
Creation date: January, 2016
While completing the undergraduate Chemistry program at Western, I was taught how to put the theories and knowledge we acquired in the classroom into action through both labs and my undergraduate thesis with Dr. Workentin. The faculty in the Chemistry program is top-notch, and always made an effort to ensure that we saw the connections between practice and theory and how what we were learning fit in with the bigger picture. The Chemistry program provided me with a foundation in scientific knowledge, but more importantly, it taught me how to think critically and analytically in a way that cannot be replicated through other disciplines.
As I progressed through the program, I found that although I ultimately enjoyed the subject material, I did not see myself as a career chemist. After some thought, I decided to enrol in the Master of International Business program at Queen’s (traitorous I know) where the unique analytical mindset that I built up through my training in Chemistry allowed me to set myself apart in contrast to my peers who came from the social sciences. This was particularly noticeable in my finance classes, where I found that I had a knack for solving problems that was rooted in the way we were trained to look at complex situations during my time in the Chemistry program.
I ended up deciding to pursue a career in financial services, and I currently work as an Investment Banking Analyst for Credit Suisse in London, UK. Getting to where I am today would not have been possible without the training and knowledge I gained throughout my time at Western.
Western B.Sc. Chemistry, 2013
Creation date: January, 2016
My undergraduate chemistry degree program at Western proved to be an ideal platform for my career as a patent litigation lawyer. The depth of course selection and quality of professors was exceptional, providing me with strong fundamentals across each of the different major disciplines of chemistry. However, I found that the true strength in the department lied in the outstanding learning environment in which us students were placed. A combination of coursework that fostered analytical-based discussion along with a bright and motivated group of classmates led to an environment that begot success. This atmosphere at Western Chemistry led me and my classmates to a diverse array of successful paths for our future professional careers.
Personally, chemistry served as a natural transition to law. While this is perhaps difficult to envision, the focus at Western Chemistry towards understanding rather than rote learning was a terrific breeding ground for a future lawyer. The student work opportunities at Western Chemistry, including the fourth year thesis project, provided an especially strong background in this regard. Further, chemistry provides a background that is particularly advantages to certain fields of law that have been traditionally less populated at law schools, thus giving chemistry grads with a leg up on their philosophy and English lit colleagues.
I exploited this leg up and became a patent litigation lawyer. I use my knowledge gained from Western Chemistry on a daily basis, in fact building on the knowledge gained from my chemistry degree to learn complicated inventions across fields such as organic, polymer, solid-state and formulation chemistry. In a nutshell, my job as a patent litigator requires me to retain world-leading experts in the field of the patented invention, develop a detailed understanding of the technology, and then explain to a judge why the patent in question is infringed or is deserving of its status as an “invention”.
In effect, the patent litigator is the professor and the judge the student. As I echo past lectures in the courtroom I am continually thankful for the strong foundations provided at Western Chemistry.
Intellectual Property Associate at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
Western B.Sc., Chemistry, 2008
York University D.Jur., 2011
Creation date: February, 2016